Growing Up in the 1960s
By Karen Osburn, Archivist
The 1960s were a decade that encompassed some of the worst and best events of my young age. Born in 1952, the 1960s covered my life from the ages of 8 to 18. In that time I went from playing with toys to being interested in boys. Growing up in the 1960s, we saw assassinations, a space race, men walking on the moon, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights marches, segregation, integration, The Beetles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Animals, the Dave Clark Five, Credence Clearwater Revival, muscle cars, protests, and nuclear bomb scares. I went from third grade to the start of my senior year in high school in the 1960s. We had Bomb Shelters, duck for cover drills, and I got to vote!
I read Mad Magazine, Robert Heinlein, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and the Black Stallion to name a few pieces of “literature.”
As a teenager in the 1960s, there was probably a lot less drama going on in my life than I thought there was at the time. Not having enough life experience to know what events were really serious and which ones only seemed that way; all most everything in my life in my life took on an importance disproportionate to reality. Not growing up in Geneva I can only guess at some of the local events that impacted people’s lives in the 1960s, but the National events were big enough to have an emotional response for most of us.
President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963 and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in June 1968 only a couple of months after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Medgar Wiley Evers, Civil Rights Activist, was assassinated in June 1963 about five months before John Kennedy was killed in November. In 1969 roughly 400,000 people attended the Woodstock Music Festival. The Vietnam War which started in 1955 finally saw regular U. S. Combat troops deployed in 1965. All these events, the music, and the television shows wove a bond around Americans, even teenagers.
In my high school in the 1960s we were finally able to convince the administration that it would be alright for girls to wear slacks to school, slacks mind you, not jeans. I think the reason the Principal gave in was that slacks were more modest than the mini-skirt style most of us wore. The boys in our school didn’t like it (I can’t imagine why) and let us know it in no uncertain terms. High school in the 1960s still taught Home-Economics only to girls and Shop only to boys. There was only one girl on the cross country team in my senior year and since she was better than some of the boys they were not happy about that either. I think our school district must have been a bit ahead of their time in letting her participate since Title IX didn’t go into effect until 1972.
The 1960s saw the rise of the shopping malls. I remember seeing Midtown Plaza in Rochester for the first time about 1966 and being so awed that my friend (a year older and more sophisticated than I) suggested that I close my mouth before I drew attention to myself. Now I walk around Eastview Mall and miss the “old” days of lively downtowns.
So what was Geneva like in the 1960s? I checked the 1965 Geneva City Directories and discovered a few things about our city of then 19,910. The directories listed 4 Veterinarians, 4 Architects, 18 Lawyers, 4 Bakeries, 18 Barbershops and 36 Beauty Parlors, 4 banks with Christmas Clubs, 30 Cafes and 17 Taverns, 27 Churches, 5 Funeral Homes and 5 Convalescent Homes, 26 Groceries, 13 Manufacturers, 16 Fraternal Organizations, 12 Labor Organizations, 7 Patriotic Organizations, 6 Religious Organizations, 10 Welfare Organizations, 10 Playgrounds and 29 Physicians and Surgeons.
The 1965 Seneca Saga Yearbook for Geneva High School shows eager young men and women, the men wearing suits and ties and the women wearing light colored sweaters with a mock turtleneck or jewel neckline and a string of pearls. The skirts are just below the knee in length and pleated, a-line or full. Eyeglasses are cat’s-eye shape for women and the “Clark Kent” style for men. (Five years later the skirts would all be way above the knee or down to the ankle, glasses would start to have wire frames, and both the men’s and women’s hair would be much longer).
After school social life might include Girl’s Bowling Club, Math Club, Monitors Club, Biology Club, Art Club, Auditors Club, Stage Crew, Conservation Club, Ushers Club, Russian Study, Advanced Russian Study, National Honor Society, Leaders Club, Varsity Club, Girls Track (remember there was no Title IX), Future Homemakers of America, Future Teachers of America, Future Farmers of America, Knitting Club, Senior Chefs, Junior Chefs, Human Rights Seminar, Public Speaking, Spanish Club, French Club, Classical Club, Ceramics, Photo Service, Audio-Visual, Ski Club, Glee Club, Majorettes, Stage Band, Jazz Orchestra, Concert Band, Varsity Chorus, Co-Ed Bowling, and Girls Hockey. The sports teams are listed separately and women were not on the sports teams. Girls are in the sports activities, not on teams. The sports section even has a rifle team and there is a photo of a woman shooting a rifle, but I can’t figure out if she is a member of the club. Her name is not listed.
I will be writing more about the 1960s in my blog each month as our winter fund-raiser will have a 1960s theme. For now, I just want to have you think about the 1960s and how you relate to them.